Court reporters use stenography machines or other recording devices to create accurate records of official events including meetings, speeches and court hearings.
In order to become a court reporter, one must have a high school diploma, fulfill his or her state's licensing requirements and obtain the necessary education. Education options for this field include certificate and associate degree programs. Certificate programs are basic training programs that last one year, while associate degree programs include general studies courses and take two or three years to complete. Some court reporting programs offer distance learning options.
Certificate Programs in Court Reporting
Certificate programs provide the minimum amount of education and training required for entry-level positions in the area of court reporting. These programs are offered by many community colleges and trade schools. Previous typing experience may be helpful as some court reporting schools require applicants to type at a minimum speed; however, enrolled students typically work up to 225 wpm during the program. Students also learn basic court reporting skills, such as shorthand and transcribing. Courses in medical and legal terminology are also offered. Courses might include:
- Machine shorthand
- Court reporting technology
- Court transcription
- Document editing
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Associate Degree Programs in Court Reporting
Associate degree programs train students to become proficient at real-time transcribing, voice writing and stenographic reporting. Students practice using technologies for broadcast captioning, scoping and stenography. The National Court Reporters Association approves court reporting schools that meet the organization's standards of education. Similar to certificate programs, degree programs require students to type at a minimum speed. Some general education courses are also required. Degree-specific courses include:
- Legal and medical terminology
- Courtroom procedures
- Real-time reporting
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Employment for court reporters is expected to grow by 2% during the period from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The need for reporters for captioning is increasing in the television and online programming sector. The BLS also reported a median annual wage of $49,500 for court reporters in May 2015. Compensation varies depending on the type of reporting, geographic location, amount of experience and level of certification.
Licensing and Continuing Education
Continuing education, such as advancing to an associate degree program, may be beneficial for those with a certificate in court reporting. Obtaining additional skills, such as real-time stenography or captioning, may widen job opportunities. Licensing requirements vary by state. Some states require the Certified Court Reporter designation, which is earned by passing a state test. Some states may require court reporters to become notary publics, or they may require licensing in specific areas, such as voice writing.
Once an associate degree is obtained, certification in court reporting is offered by several professional organizations. The National Court Reporters Association offers three levels of registered reporter certifications, as well as specialty certification programs for broadcast captioners, real-time reporters and Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) providers. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers offers certification for electronic court reporters and transcribers. Additionally, federal court reporters can apply for certification from the United States Court Reporters Association. Each of these certifications requires applicants to pass an examination that may have both written and practical components.
Depending on licensing and certification requirements, you can earn either a certificate or an associate degree in court reporting to work as a reporter, typist or transcriptionist in a courtroom setting. While the job outlook for court reporters is slower than the national average, it is expected to grow 2% by 2024.